Let me introduce you to your next collection centerpiece - The Patek Philippe "Turtle" set. A collection of seven different types of outgoing mid-Century pieces of lug and case art. The museum worthy designs come with the references 2546, 2547, 2548, 2549, 2549-1, 2549-2 and 2550. These are pieces that scream for a certain acquired taste but will differentiate the avid collector from the "mere" enthusiast.

March 27, 2024

Rare Patek Philippe Watches - The "Turtle" Collection


Marcus Siems     Marcus Siems @siemswatches
    Collector, Author, Data Analyst


[Highlights] The Patek Philippe "Turtle" Set

- Let me introduce you to your next collection centerpiece -

- The seven references 2546, 2547, 2548, 2549, 2549-1, 2549-2 and 2550 -

- The best of Mid-Century Lug & Case Art by non other than Markowsky -

- Only about 200 of these pieces made over all references -


The Taurus Horn vintage Patek Philippe ref. 2549-1The "Taurus Horn" Patek Philippe ref. 2549-1 - part of the so-called "Turtle" collection (less than 36 made). Photo from the upcoming April 2024 Monaco Legend Group Auction.


What is a good collection centerpiece? These are the watches in your collection that define the style and the trajectory of your collection journey. But what can you put there? This is a central question ... and sometimes the answer can be found within a single catalogue!

Almost exactly one year ago we introduced you to the Patek Philippe "Comet" collection - launched 1942 it is a set built to be a centerpiece. But it wasn't the last time Patek Philippe offered you a selection of instant crown jewels!

Fast forward to 1954 - Ladies and Gentleman: The "Turtle" Collection!


Overview over the vintage Patek Philippe Turtle CollectionOverview over the six references of the "Turtle" set - the references 2646 - 2550 - made in 1954/55. Photos Courtesy of Antiquorum, WatchProSite, John Moran, AntiquorumChristie's, Heritage Auction, Monaco Legend Group & Davide Parmegiani.


This is a set of seven (some say nine) Patek Philippe references with all the best of mid-Century lug-art extravaganza (imagine having one on a bracelet)! All of them were launched in 1954 and production ran for only one year. They further all have the manually wound caliber 10-200 in common. And looking at a ref. 2549-1 or ref. 2550 it also becomes quite evident why you'd call them "Turtles"...


Case back and movement from a vintage Patek Philippe ref. 2549Movement (manually wound cal. 10-200) and case back inside from a Patek Philippe ref. 2549. Take a close look at the case maker hallmark below the "REF: 2549" stamp - The Genevan key number 8 for the famous Markowski manufacture. The same as for the Comet collection and so many other intricate case designs. Very interestingly, the references appear to always be stamped in the same format: "REF: 25XX". Photo Courtesy of Heritage Auction.


The cases - all around 33mm to 34mm - come from one of The most renowned case manufacturers at the time: Markowski (Geneva key hallmark #8). Markowski made themselves a name in making shaped, extravagant or generally the extremely complex cases in particular for time-only watches. The beauty and design can hardly be captured by head-on photos so if you ever get the chance, turn such a case over multiple times and see how every facet, every chamfer, every bevel, every angle is set in perfect balance for the holistic wrist experience.


The case profiles of a vintage Patek Philippe ref. 2546, 2548 and 2549 - with cases made by Markowski

The case profiles of the Patek Philippe refs. 2549 (top), 2549-1 (middle), ad 2546 (bottom) - with cases made by Markowski. See how the lugs are turned downwards to accommodate the wrist? The intricately finished and executed five-step bezel. There's so many detail to each of these cases - only few manufacturers could deliver on such masterful designs. Photos Courtesy of AntiquorumHeritage Auction, & Ronak Madhvani.


1) References & Production

Overall, we got seven distinct references: The references 2546, 2547, 2548, 2549, 2549-1, 2549-2, & 2550. The most striking and differentiating features are the cases and specifically the lugs. We're speaking here of styles that will make everybody instantly recognize that you're not "Just Another Rolex Sub" guy. This is lug art made for museum worthy collections!


Zooming in on the Patek Philippe Turtle collection lug stylesOverview of the different lug and bezel styles on the "Turtle" collection. Photos Courtesy of AntiquorumWatchProSiteJohn MoranChristie'sAntiquorum, & Davide Parmegiani.


And not only are these timepieces for connoisseurs only but they are rare! As rare as it might get in the world of vintage Patek Philippe time-only pieces. The overall production is assumed to be less than 200 (a little under 200 cases were delivered by Markowski). In other words that's less than 30 pieces per reference.

However, not all references are equally scarce. Judging from the pieces that hit the market over the recent years we can identify at least 9 distinct ref. 2549-1, 5 ref. 2548, 5 ref. 2549 (3 white, 2 black), 5 ref. 2550, 3 ref. 2546, and 1 ref. 2547 (only popped up once in a 2013 forum post).

Further, according to Tortella & Sons research, there are 6 ref. 2546, 2 ref. 2547, 7 ref. 2548, 11 ref. 2549, 10 ref. 2549-1, 1 ref. 2549-2, & 8 ref. 2550 known to the market. You can find the estimated (upper bound) production numbers also via the April 2024 Monaco Legend Group Auction catalogue:


Ref. Lug Style  Est. Case No. Production Dial Variants*
2546 Twisted
682,526 - 531 36 (10 RG)
2547 "Spaceship" 682,976 18 2
2548 Overhanging 423,107 - 119 36 3
2549 Devil's Horns 683,030 - 042 & 684,832 36 (white), 24 (black) 4 & 5
2549-1 Taurus Horns 683,048 - 057;
685,344 - 360
36 4-6
2549-2 Devil's Horn, 3-step bezel ??? 12 6
2550 C-Shape 683,066 - 086 24 YG, 18 RG 2, 4, 6

Table 1. Overview of the Turtle Collection by lug & case style, production batches and dial variants (* see below). Production volumes displayed are upper bounds. Data with courtesy of Monaco Legend Group & Tortella & Sons.


2) Dial Variations

In total I could identify six main dial variations*, all of which were executed by Stern Freres. Some appear to be specific to a certain reference, others mix. Generally, the dials are signed "Patek Philippe" above "Genève" at 12o'clock and typically no further signature at 6o'clock**.


Six different dial variations on the vintage Patek Philippe Turtle watch collection Overview over the six main dial configurations found on the "Turtle" collection.  Photos Courtesy of AntiquorumWatchProSiteJohn MoranChristie'sHeritage Auction, & Davide Parmegiani.


Style 1. This is a clean silver/white dial with triangular markers, Arabic 12, cross-hair sub-second, Dauphine hands and a rim outside the marker track. A style that I observed in the ref. 2546.

Style 2. The second style found on the single ref. 2547 and one "Freccero" double-signed ref. 2550R features a clean silver/white brushed dial with slim baton markers (double at 12), no numerals, baton/paddle style hands and a sub-second scale in 5-second intervals. However, the sample size on these dials is fairly low and their untouched appearance is debated.

Style 3. Another very clean look that is compatible with Style 2. The major differences is that it comes with an Arabic 12. Moreover you will find the 15-30-45-60 second indications on the sub-second track are thicker and longer, a feature common between all refs. 2548 with this dial.


potentially unique Patek Philippe ref. 2548 in yellow goldAn extremely rare Patek Philippe ref. 2548 with a Style 3+ dial featuring "barbell" instead of baton markers. Surreal how it captures the light. Photo Courtesy of gentleman collector Ronak Madhvani (@roni_m_29).


Style 4. It comes with kite markers and an Arabic 12 inside a beautifully guilloched perimeter either in black or white. Another artisanal detail is the an inner dot minute-track. Interestingly, we can categorize these dials into two further sub-branches: We can see a triangle or a cut 6-numeral at 6o'clock for white and black dials, respectively. This style is one of the most intricate executions but also one of the most commonly seen in the pieces (refs. 2549, 2549-1, 2550) that hit the market over the last 20 years (9 out of 28).

Style 5. Similarly, lavish and intricate is Style 5 and can be found in the refs. 2549 and 2549-1. It is a full guilloched dial with kite markers and and 3-9-12 Arabic numerals. The 6o'clock position features a triangular marker in both colors - black and white.

Style 6. Coming with a clean white/silver color this style sports faceted kite markers, numerals at 3-9-12, and Dauphine hands. It can be seen on refs. 2549-1, 2549-2, and 2550.


Two Style 4 dial versions of the Patek Philippe Turtle references 2549 & 2550Comparison of two Style 4 dials next to each other. The left (ref. 2549) in black with cut-out 6-numeral and the right (ref. 2550) in white with triangular marker at 6. Photos Courtesy of gentleman collector Ronak Madhvani (@roni_m_29).


3) The Full Turtle Collection 

Pick your poison: Taurus, Devil, Turtle, or Ram? Or do you fancy them all? What does it take to own the full "Turtle" collection? Well, consider that only about 45 out of the 200 ever made appeared publicly over the last couple decades. Add on top that two out of the seven references appeared only once or twice... It would be a lifetime achievement!

This is a centerpiece collection! It is Patek Philippe's interpretation of the Midsummer Night's Dream***. A set of watches with that old and glorious flair that demands your attention. It's not simplistic, not everybody will like their design but it definitely oozes style! Each piece got edges, got character. Something so many modern watches are simply missing - but I'm digressing...


The Roni Madhvani Midsummer Night's Dream Collection of vintage Patek Philippe watchesTo the avid follower of Roni this might not come as a surprise that he owns an almost all acts of the Midsummer Night's Dream - or the Turtle set. Photos Courtesy of gentleman collector Ronak Madhvani (@roni_m_29).


I get that not everyone is into late Artdeco case design and flamboyant lug styles. Nevertheless, these pieces are the perfect incarnation of the post-war years. The design landscape was exiting the Artdeco and entering into the Mid-Century Modern. We would see an era of straight lines in organic shapes ahead - but Patek Philippe gave the sculptural late Artdeco one last victory lap. Finishing on a high note!


- Lastly, I want to highlight the insights and help I got from the watch collector community. A lot of personal correspondence went into this project and I would like to thank Ronak Madhvani (@roni_m_29) for sharing his collection and John Reardon (@JohnReardon570, founder of @Collectabilityllc) for his insights. -



* not counting colors in variant 4 & 6 of ref. 2549. There is also a rare 7th variation with Arabic 12 and barbell-shaped markers on one of the ref. 2548 (Style 3+, Courtesy of Ronak Madhvani). Another version is a full Roman numeral layout (ref. 2548), which must be enjoyed with caution as it could very well be a later replacement dial.

** However, I also identified one "Swiss" and one "Fab. Suisse" signed dial. The originality of these signatures cannot be tested.

*** Midsummer Night's Dream: In my humble opinion also a better nickname for the full set...



The references are linked in the text but are predominantly based on personal correspondence, google/EveryWatch/auction house searches, and the recent Monaco Legend Group Auction April 2024 catalogue (Lot 122).


All rights on text and graphics reserved to the Author. 

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